A special dedication to Auntie Jean


On October 24, 2021, Lyris Jeanette "Jean" Duncan, one of my aunts, Daddy’s eldest sister, died in St Vincent, aged 89.

From an early age Auntie Jean, a humble soul, excelled in creative arts, the spoken word and sports. A natural leader, she grew up to become a teacher, storyteller and trailblazing Vincentian radio personality. I was thoroughly impressed a few days ago upon reading an article (written by Carleen Heather Marshall) honouring Auntie Jean in National Heroes and Heritage Month.

Trained in professional media at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and in Australia, on a Commonwealth scholarship, she was St Vincent’s first female broadcaster, first female manager of the Windward Islands Broadcasting Service substation, Kingstown, first female general manager of Radio St Vincent, and a voluntary trainer of young female contestants in the "prestigious SVG Pageant" (in speech patterns and how to build a well-modulated voice)...among other things.

As a local radio personality, hers was a much-loved voice of the nation. An excerpt from the article states: "It seemed that her broadcasting voice was appropriate for times of crisis, as she was pivotal in keeping the nation informed on matters of national interest, for example, hers was the voice that informed the nation when La Soufriere erupted in 1979. During this time, her home was left unattended, as she kept vigil at the station, untiring, and working 'without sleep.' Likewise, while informing of Hurricane Allen, her own house roof was blown off."

What stands out most in my memory of Auntie Jean is her immense love of animals; she had quite a "collection" of mainly dogs and cats. On a visit to St Vincent years ago, she took me for a drive. Sitting in the passenger seat was a hair-raising experience, quite like being in a video game. Her little red car hurtled along narrow Vincentian roads, flew at top speed around blind corners and perilous bends, expertly avoiding the oncoming onslaught of crazy minibuses...all as she chatted non-stop, frequently taking her eyes off the road, swinging her head around almost 180 degrees while exclaiming: “Look at that cute dog!”... “Ohhhhh! Another one!”...“Sweet cat!”

Even while driving at top speed, her laser eyes could somehow penetrate roadside bushes and extend into drains or down hills to spot dogs, cats and other animals that would otherwise be unseen by the average human. Perhaps this is something in our DNA, as friends often comment upon my seemingly extraordinary ability to spy animals in need of help, even when they are obscured by vegetation or are a great distance away.

Upon learning of Auntie Jean’s passing, I decided to honour her by carrying out specific animal welfare acts in her memory.

One part of this "dedication" will, most likely, happen next week: a drive around Tobago, feeding homeless dogs (of which there are many), deworming them where possible (with Endolav) and assisting those with ticks and fleas by spraying them (with Fipronel) or administering Bravecto tablets in cases of extreme tick/flea infestation or mange.

The other part of my "dedication" involves two very friendly, gorgeous brindle-coated homeless dogs (mother and son). According to an employee at a nearby food establishment, they appear to have been dumped. They have since become familiar "faces" in the area, regularly fed by various people (their employees and me included).


Last Tuesday, the day after Auntie Jean died, I captured the two dogs in order to take them to the animal shelter clinic the following day, to be spayed and neutered. I intend to find them a loving home.

I have named the mother "Jean" and her son "Reign" – inspired by the fact that (i) he has a very regal, Egyptian presence and (ii) it was raining excessively when we drove them to the vet clinic on Wednesday.

That Tuesday, as I attempted to catch Reign, I heard an excited female voice coming from a car parked nearby: “Is that Elspeth?” It was a Trinidadian vacationer who, upon seeing me handling the dog, deduced my identity.

“I read your articles every Sunday!” she exclaimed, making particular reference to my work with animals.

Assuming that she is reading this now, I extend a special "shout out." Perhaps you and your family are animal lovers who would like to adopt Jean and Reign? What better Tobago souvenirs?


"A special dedication to Auntie Jean"

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